"Tuesday was not a bad day of practice, but it looked like the team had been off a week, which they had," said Ole Miss Offensive Coordinator Phil Longo. "Yesterday and today (Friday), I was very pleased with what I saw out there. A lot of energy and the lights starting to come on more and more as each day progresses."
Thus, the Friday practice, where Freeze "put the ball down" the final 20 minutes of the workout with second and third-down scenarios and both sides of the ball performed and made plays. Longo's offense would land a right cross and DC Wesley McGriff's defense would counter with an uppercut, all with both sidelines engaged and competing. Whenever one side the ball would make a play, the rest of their teammates would swarm them on the field, even in a couple of cases dog-piling.
"Now that they are understanding the systems more on each side of the ball, they’re starting to play faster, more downhill and with more energy and intensity," Freeze commented. "It started yesterday (Thursday) and carried over to today."
The Rebels will pick up next week with three more practices before closing out spring training with three more, culminating with the April 8th, 11 a.m. Grove Bowl.
* Pre-practice warmups, PK Luke Logan was consistently hitting kickoffs into the end zone with average hang time. At one point he was kicking with a crosswind and kicked a couple out of the end zone. Gary Wunderlich was also kicking close or into the end zone with a little better hang time.
* The tight end position is starting to come around nicely after "fears" of what it would be like post-Evan Engram, a First-Team All-American. Dawson Knox continues to impress with his size, speed and receiving ability and he continues to make at least one important catch a day. Octavious Cooley is the most physical of the group, and the biggest, and he too is coming around. As we have suggested previously, he needs to "live" in the playbook to get a better grasp of his assignments, but when he does, he is in beat mode. Ty Quick is also bringing some maturity and consistency to the position and Jason Pellerin, playing more of a hybrid than a true TE, is fast becoming a receiving threat with a very good skill set.
* Former Rebel RT Fahn Cooper has been to virtually every practice. Fahn was on the practice squad of the 49ers last year but hopes to move up to full-time status this year since he has been moved to right guard, a position he is bulking up for and excited about. What does he think of the Rebel offensive line? "I think they will be deeper this year than when I played here. I know seven guys are ready and a couple of more are getting there," he stated. "(Greg) Little is starting to get it all together in terms of coordinating his feet, body and arms in fluid movement. The talent is definitely there, and now he is putting it all together. Rod Taylor has the best feet of the group and is having a really good spring. Alex Givens is very competitive and more athletic than I think he is given credit for. (Jordan) Sims, (Javon) Patterson, Sean (Rawlings), Daronte (Bouldin) - they are all mature now and doing some really good things. I am impressed overall with the talent and the depth. They have a chance to be really good."
* Freshman Defensive End Ryder Anderson is 6-6 and when he reported to Ole Miss at semester break, the early enrollee was 2320 pounds. Don't look now, but he is already 250 pounds. He is going to be one large human being before all is said and done and from all reports, he is driven and a "great kid." Don;t be surprised to look up in August and see him at 265-270. From a playing standpoint, he hasn't scratched the surface yet, but his frame and movement tell all one needs to know - he has a great chance to be a quality player down the road.
* Thursday's practice was extremely physical, we were told, but the Rebs escaped with no serious injuries. A couple of minor nicks but nothing to report of any consequence. Knock on wood.
* LB Coach Bradley Dale Peveto is giving everyone at those positions a hard look and is also, it appears, having most of them learn all three slots. Willie Hibbler, for one, is playing MLB and both OLB slots. Brenden Williams is playing both OLB slots, as is DeMarquis Gates, Tayler Polk and Ray Ray Smith. Donta Evans and Dertric Bing-Dukes are both exclusively MLBs. It is hard to distinguish a pecking order right now because Peveto is running them in and out constantly and giving them all first team reps, but if we had to guess, Gates, Bing-Dukes and Hibbler seem to be the top three at this juncture, but that could change daily.
* C.J. Moore got more reps at the number one strong safety slot today than Deontay Anderson, who has been getting the number one reps, did. . . . Breon Dixon and A.J. Moore split number one reps at the Star slot, which was also something new. . . . Looks like C.J. and Breon have made positive moves based on Friday's practice.
* Who did well Thursday? Even though the media could not attend, we did get some feedback. "Jordan Wilkins was as stud, running over people," said Freeze. "Little did very well as did Bing-Dukes and Rod Taylor. Charles Wiley also came to play yesterday -we need more of that out of him. A.J. Brown also had a big, big day."
* Jason Pellerin, as we reported before, isn't really playing tight end. He is in the slot more than anything and he is making noise at that position. Like Knox, he makes at least one big play a day that we have seen.
* As we reported Tuesday, Garrald McDowell is still working inside at DT instead of DE. He is also making some plays there. He may have found a home where he can be effective. At his weight, however, he would probably be a little limited in how many reps he can be effective. Eat, Gerrald, eat.
* It appears junior Chadwick Lamar is going to be the snapper on field goals/PAT and punts. He has paid his dues as a backup and looks to be in the driver's seat for that important job. Chadwick is from Oxford and has been patiently waiting his turn. it is now.
* On the punt team, the personal protectors lined up just in front of the punter this year look to be Breeland Speaks, Ross Donnelly and Ty Quick. Some good beef there. The main coverage guys right now? A.J. Moore, C.J. Hampton, Dawson Knox, Javien Hamilton, Tayler Polk and Ray Ray Smith.
* Kendarius Webster is still braced up heavily on his rehabbing knee, but he is starting to run some. He cannot change directions yet, but he can get into a nice stride, He said he feels no pain, has no swelling afterward and only a little tenderness "every once in a while after striding out."
* Backup QB Jordan Ta'amu does something every day that raises confidence he can win ball games. Friday, he read an all-out blitz and just before getting buried, he threw a sidearm strike to RB D.K. Buford for a key first down. His awareness and QB savvy continues to impress and as Longo said, "he is a much better athlete than his film shows."
* Cameron Ordway, for now, appears to have been moved from cornerback to the Star position behind A.J. Moore and Breon Dixon, who appear to be locked in a dead heat battle for first team status.
* Since spring began, we haven't really written much about Shea Patterson because, well, there are areas on the team of concern. Starting QB isn't one of them. Shea is what we all hoped he would be - he is very athletic, as we all saw last year; he gets the ball out quickly and accurately; he feels pressure instinctively and reads what to do quickly and if the wideouts will keep their routes alive and sink into openings or sprint into the clear, he will find them and deliver a strike. He is the whole package, but one must also remember his age and experience. That is why every spring and August rep is valuable for him, but, again, that position is not a worry. Not at all.